The Chicago Bears have agreed to terms on a three-year contract with former Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. The deal is worth a total of $12 million, with $6 million guaranteed. Included in the deal are $2 million in incentives.
The 29-year-old is entering his fifth NFL season. The 6-0, 240 pounder was an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2008.
Freeman played collegiate ball at Mary Hardin-Baylor, where he was a two-time Division III All-American. He spent three seasons, from 2009-2011, in the Canadian Football League with the Seskatchewan Roughriders.
In 13 games last season, Freeman posted 112 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 pass breakups and 1 interception. In three of his four seasons, he's tallied more than 100 tackles, with his best season coming in 2012: 145 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 INT and 1 forced fumble. In 2013, he accumulated 126 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 pass breakups and 6 forced fumbles.
Freeman is an outstanding run defender and has proven very adept in coverage as well. In four seasons, he has 4 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, along with 16 pass breakups. He's also had success as a blitzer, tallying 12.0 sacks during his career.
Freeman was graded as the second best inside linebacker on the free-agent market, behind only Danny Trevathan, whom the Bears also signed this week.
The addition of both Trevathan and Freeman is a critical boost for the Bears, who have struggled at the inside linebacker position ever since Brian Urlacher's retirement in 2012. The team last year used Shea McClellin and Christian Jones, neither of whom had ever before played the position, and the results were mediocre at best.
Between 2013-2014, the Bears run defense ranked 32nd, 17th and 22nd. The club's new linebacker duo should help improve those numbers dramatically, as both Trevathan and Freeman are downhill players who excel at attacking the line of scrimmage.
The two veterans have also demonstrated top-tier awareness and quickness on passing downs.
The biggest position of need for the Bears this off-season was inside linebacker and GM Ryan Pace has landed the top two players on the open market. Coordinator Vic Fangio now has a competent ILB duo that can rival the pairing of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman he had during four years with the San Francisco 49ers.